We’ll be honest: some of us have been dreading the arrival of Kinect Star Wars. In theory, mixing Microsoft’s magical motion-capture tech with the wonders of the Star Wars universe should be an easy win. Seeing the game in action previously, it looked like a selection of disparate and not particularly brilliant mini-games, suffering from familiar Kinect control issues and not really living up to the Star Wars name.
Kinect Star Wars is a pleasant surprise. It has its share of issues and, inevitably, some parts of the game work better than others. Yet, it’s a very entertaining Kinect experience, an enjoyable Star Wars experience, and generally more fun than we expected. If you take a po-faced attitude to gaming or Star Wars, and you’re looking for a deep Star Wars adventure that lets you wield the force and a lightsaber with flawless motion controls, Kinect Star Wars isn’t it. But if you’re happy with a lighter, more family-oriented title that you can trot out on a Friday night with Star Wars-loving friends and on Sunday with Clone Wars-crazy kids, then Kinect Star Wars will do very nicely.
It is, of course, a kind of games compendium, though to call them mini-games doesn’t really do them justice. C3-PO and R2D2 act as your comperes, and the premise is that you’re checking through old records in the Jedi library in the aftermath of the events of Return of the Jedi.
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Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising - the main mode
Oddly, the central element is the least consistently brilliant. Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising is the tale of a young Padawan apprentice, set in between Episode 1 and Episode 2 and kicking off with a separatist assault on the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk.
It’s an episodic adventure, alternating between scenes of lightsaber brawling, more structured duels and sections of platforming, with a handful of sequences that see you piloting a speeder-bike or attacking separatist artillery from the back of a land-speeder. It all runs on rails so you’re limited in where you can go and what you can do, but otherwise the controls work well. The right-hand wields your virtual lightsaber and your left-hand handles force powers, and a range of jumping, bending and dashing full-body gestures do the rest.
It’s a decent-looking bit of work, with nice Clone Wars-style cartoon graphics and popular characters like Yoda and Mace Windu putting in an appearance. The storytelling and presentation give it the feel of a real Star Wars adventure, and it’s not hard to see it going down well with younger players. Sadly, more experienced gamers will soon tire of the repetitive combat, while the moves to jump and dash forwards don’t always work consistently. It’s also hard to avoid the feeling that not quite enough is made of your force powers. While you’re limited in the objects you can grab from the air, lift and hurl using your force powers, raising heavy objects just as Luke does with the X-Wing in The Empire Strikes Back never gets old.
It’s in Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising that you’ll first come across the games duelling system, which gets a starring role in the fighting-focused Duels of Fate mode. This works reasonably well, though it’s slightly disappointing that the big hitters we all want to play - Darth Vader, for example - have to be unlocked before use. The position of your lightsaber is tracked by the movement and orientation of your hand, and the controls are surprisingly sensitive and responsive.
However, the duelling is quite rigidly structured. You basically have to parry three blows and then win a stand-off, at which point you can wail away at your opponent and try to take as much health from them as humanly possible. As a result, it all feels oddly formal, and not enough like a proper lightsaber duel. Those wanting to relive childhood dreams of playing Luke as he takes on his dad might not have their perfect game yet.